We’ve read the stats, heard the reports and listened to the experts, but just how do the Patriots move on without the dynamic tight end Rob Gronkowski? Well of course it’s going to mean everyone on the roster steps up that extra notch and contributes more, but here are some specific players I look to filling the giant void:
Tom Brady: It feels like it comes to this every year, but Brady needs to be playing his best football now that Rob Gronkowski is out of the mix. Early mishaps and misreads have led the Patriots to fall behind by double-digits in their past three games and part of it had to do with how Brady was throwing the ball. The only game that Brady didn’t miss throws necessarily was in the Denver game when the Patriots fell down due to three early fumbles.
“You just have to find a different formula,” Brady told WEEI radio in Boston. “I think that’s the important part. And Gronk provides a certain margin of error because of how talented a player he is and the other guys play different roles for us.”
Brady has that recognition of what needs to be done and has the ability to start games much smoother and sustain drives in the first half. I think that is huge because without Gronkowski, you’re not going to be able to come back as easily in the second half.
Danny Amendola: So far Amendola has been a bust. Don’t be mad at me, just look at the numbers: He’s only had one game of double-digit catches and it was way back on September eighth against a crap team in Buffalo. He finally had his second touchdown catch of the season against the Browns and I hope that is the start of something.
He catches most balls thrown his way, however the targets just weren’t really there. This is due to the fact that he gets virtually no separation and that is most likely due to the fact that a groin doesn’t heal that quickly and he’s still dealing with it. No two ways about it, the guy needs to be way better if the Patriots want to make a Super Bowl run.
Shane Vereen: Here’s the thing that’s been bothering me. The Patriots and their red zone numbers, with and without Gronkowski, are all over the news with Gronks loss as they should be, but the Patriots got Vereen back just three games after Gronkowski and Vereen made an immediate impact.
Vereen is Brady’s blanket and Brady has often flocked to the short intermediate pass throughout his entire career. Kevin Faulk, Danny Woodhead and even Wes Welker were all short route runners here and all of those guys had Brady’s attention. With Gronkowski down, it’s obvious that Vereen will be fed the ball and for a guy that’s had a few injuries himself, let’s hope he can handle the added workload.
Michael Hoomanawanui: has been suffering from an injury to the knee was upgraded to questionable last week after two straight weeks of being ruled out. He’s only had ten receptions, but he’s also been targeted just 14 times. The Patriots need to have someone at tight end and I haven’t heard anyone talk about the Hoo-man.
Hoomanawanui needs to grow into the starting role quick because the Patriots signed DJ Williams at tight end, but he couldn’t even cut the roster the past few weeks. The production from Williams will likely be limited and a recent Boston Herald article quotes him as saying the Patriots playbook is like “learning a new language.” Hoomanawanui has been here the entire season and knows the plays and, if he’s healthy enough, should be this teams first option at tight end. He has big shoes to fill, but no one is expecting Gronkowski-like production. He just needs to block and do his job with the looks that Brady gives him.
There’s no replacing a Gronkowski, but if these four offensive players contribute, this offense can still be as productive as when Gronkowski was here.